Thursday, February 25, 2010

One for the Books

The puffy saffron tents overflow with literati - and the scent of manure wafting from nearby stables. Honking cars drown out the shaky sound systems amplifying panel discussions. Immortals of the pen and Bollywood idols alike jostle in long lines for meals of soupy dal and curried potatoes. Welcome to the Jaipur Literary Festival.

Why would Nobel laureates, major literary prize winners, world-renowned historians, famous poets and critics all beat a path around the globe to a dusty Indian provincial city.

Despite widespread perceptions that reading and serious literature are going out of fashion, festivals like Jaipur - places to mingle with well-known authors, often supplemented by musical performances and special events - are thriving world-wide. Most of the big-league ones are held nearer to where a good many more English-language writers live: Among them are New York's six-year-old PEN American Center World Voices Festival of International Literature, with its star-studded roster supervised by noted author Salman Rushdie, and the Guardian Hay Festival staged in Wales every May since 1998. The latter has branched out into popular franchises in places such as Nairobi and Belfast and added Spanish-language festivals in Segovia, Spain, and Cartagena, Colombia.

Full report here Wall Street Journal 

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